Freedom church unveils renovated look
$750,000 project completed at St. Nicholas Parish
By Jeff Kurowski
Compass Assistant Editor
A new altar, baptismal font, tabernacle chapel and cross with a painted canvas backdrop are among the striking updates at St. Nicholas Church in Freedom, but the renovations represent more than physical changes, said Fr. Dennis Ryan, pastor.
"It is much more a theological change, " he said. "This church was built under a different understanding. It was too long and was difficult to relate to the people. It was an overwhelming challenge to worship in that space."
The church was built during World War I. In 1967, parish volunteers completed a $30,000 renovation project including modernizing the pews and pouring concrete in the sanctuary. A new entrance was constructed in 1995, but the basic layout of the church had remained unchanged until now. The new design includes positioned seating surrounding an extended altar. Space on the sides of the altar is provided for the organ, choir and LifeTeen band.
"It will be easier singing and easier relating to the people," said Fr. Ryan.
The renovated church was unveiled last Sunday at a dedication service celebrated by Bp. Robert Banks. Planning for the $750,000 project began in 1999.
"We had done the roof and the windows, but this was a much greater project," said Fr. Ryan. "We contacted the Worship Office of the diocese and met with a liturgical consultant for direction."
Involving parish members was an important part of the planning process, he added.
"People had the opportunity to express their opinions and it was a very valuable learning experience," he said. "Those who participated on the committee came to understand the theology behind the changes."
Those attending Mass encounter the baptismal font when entering the back of the church.
"Walking in, the font draws you into our baptismal life," said Fr. Ryan. "You are then drawn to the altar."
The six-ton font requires a support unit constructed in the church basement.
In accordance with canon law, the tabernacle is immovable. It is placed between two pillars and is lighted.
"The twin pillars represent unity," said Fr. Ryan. "We are a Eucharistic people. The tabernacle chapel will allow for prayer and worship."
The painted canvas backdrop for the cross statue creates a three-dimensional effect.
The church was also cleaned and painted.
"We kept some of the old with the stained glass windows, but the feel of the church is bright, clean and new," said Fr. Ryan.
During construction, Mass was held in the church hall located in the basement. Parish members were patient and understanding during the renovation process, said Fr. Ryan.
"It worked out well," he said. "We formed a structure similar to the way it was going to be upstairs to make the transition to the new worship space easier."
"The people have been very supportive," he continued. "Through communicating with the people and involving them in the project, we received their support in the funding process and in the planning. It's very exciting. This is a young parish with a third of the members under the age of 18. The changes are a move forward."